What happens at 3am? May 22, 2006

Dan, our produce buyer, is an amiable jokester. Quick-witted with a lanky frame that can mime the backdrop to any story – he’s a natural at making people laugh. He glides smoothly amongst farmers, wholesalers, and customers. Dan walks the wholesale markets daily to understand what is coming in and how it compares to what we get direct or through vendors.

In Northern California, there are three wholesale receiving markets for produce: Oakland, San Francisco, and South San Francisco. The San Francisco market used to be located where the Embarcadero Center now stands. In the 1960s when the market was moved, it split into two parts – some vendors moved closer to the airport (creating the South San Francisco market) and others stayed in the city (creating the Jerrold Ave market). Joe Carcione used to give his raspy “Green Grocer” report for ABC news from the South City market. In the 1940’s police officer “Hogan” walked the waterfront market and encouraged wholesalers to donate a box of produce to him (now famously known as “Hogans”) for keeping an eye out for their stalls. Although bananas no longer come off the ship still on their stalks or with tarantulas and snakes tucked quietly around the stems, at 3 in the morning there still is the active tradition of fluidly hurling insults about price or quality around forklifts, lumpers (the guys unloading pallets of produce) and 18 wheel trucks. It’s a place where a modern-day Jack would quickly lose his cow for less than three beans.

Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt  chiefbanana@fruitguys.com

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